Sunday was a tremendous day. The grass was greener. The sky was bluer. The beer was colder, and the food tasted better.
The victory over the Packers was a shot of dopamine for a Vikings’ fanbase that desperately needed one. Two weeks ago, Minnesota’s playoff hopes were circling the drain. Now the Vikings are 5-5 and stand in front of a runway that could not only lead to a playoff spot but a shocking run to a division title.
So is that why this feels so good?
Maybe it’s the obvious, the Packers are the team that Vikings fans love to beat. There’s a joy that Minnesotans take in watching a privileged Green Bay fan base deal with a rare dose of adversity.
Sunday’s victory provided the Purple faithful with all of the hits. Packer fans moaned about a roughing-the-passer call that wiped out an interception. They groaned as refs overturned a Darnell Savage pick before the two-minute warning. Then, after the loss, they took to their keyboards, mocking Vikings fans for winning their midseason Super Bowl.
But the Vikings have a .500 record all-time against the Packers. In theory, they get to enjoy this every year. So, what gives?
Maybe it’s simply because of how the Vikings won this game.
Throughout the first eight games of the season, the Vikings played not to lose. Kirk Cousins was fixated on limiting turnovers and not forcing targets to his wide receivers. Similarly, Mike Zimmer didn’t play aggressively when he needed to but turned it up when the numbers suggested otherwise.
Sunday was a happy medium. Cousins came out of the gate on fire, completing his first six passes for 140 yards and a touchdown. Three of those completions went to Justin Jefferson, who racked up 104 yards in the first quarter and helped set up their first touchdown of the game.
But the Vikings have had fast starts before, only to see them burn out in the second half. When Klint Kubiak got cute on a third-and-one toss to C.J. Ham, he rectified the mistake in the second half, calling a drive that ended on a touchdown pass to Jefferson.
Even when Cousins made mistakes, they were downfield on big-play attempts. When the refs overturned Savage’s interception, he came out throwing a laser to Adam Thielen that helped set up the game-winning field goal. In the end, Cousins finished with 341 yards and three touchdowns, but they were meaningful stats mainly because he threw the ball to his top targets.
Jefferson alone is giving Vikings fans a shot in the arm. When your top target comes out for warmups wearing a Randy Moss T-shirt, it’s a good sign that he is about to go off.
Jefferson did that from the opening quarter and dominated in a way his Hall of Fame predecessor would be proud of. He not only destroyed a secondary that had shut down Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes, and Russell Wilson in consecutive weeks, but he also got the ball in every way imaginable.
He moved all over the formation and even caught a touchdown out of the backfield. Jefferson caught a 50/50 ball and forced his way into the end zone when the Vikings needed a score late in the fourth quarter. With 169 yards and two touchdowns, the only thing missing from his performance was the moon in the end zone. That would have sent the home crowd into an even bigger frenzy.
But for all the things that happened during the game, the most significant development may be what happened afterward. Zimmer told reporters that he told Cousins to play for touchdowns and let him dial it back when the time was right. After Cousins torched the Packers’ defense on Sunday, Zimmer picked his spot, took a knee, and sent Greg Joseph to kick the 29-yard field goal for the victory.
Never mind that Packer tears fell into Miller Lites all over Wisconsin. This is the way the Vikings should have been playing football from Week 1, and it’s the type of play that could beat anyone.
The Vikings aren’t a perfect team. They still have issues in the secondary. They still don’t have a starting center. Even Christian Darrisaw got lit up for six pressures trying to stop Preston Smith. These will be significant issues moving forward.
But even though it took them 11 weeks to learn their lesson, it appears they’ve figured things out. And that’s a scary thought for anyone in the NFC.